Sperm counts worldwide have plummeted by 62% per cent since 1973, according to a recent study.
Dr James Hopkisson, Medical Director at TFP Fertility Group, one of the UK’s largest IVF providers and fertility specialists with clinics across Europe, here answers some questions surrounding sperm count and what factors could help improve sperm health.
A semen analysis is an assessment of the number, motility and morphology of sperm in what is ejaculated. It should be carried out in a specialist laboratory and the normal parameters are dictated by a population survey by the World Health Organisation.
A sample should be ejaculated into a sterile pot provided by the lab, usually after two to three days abstinence, to optimise sperm quality. The sample needs to be delivered to the lab within an hour of production to be analysed.
If you have a low count, motility or morphology it is worth repeating two or three months later after lifestyle change. Sperm count can fluctuate so sometimes it is not something to worry about.
If there are persistent issues with a sperm count then referral to get advice on types of treatment available is required. If there is no sperm in the ejaculate (azoospermia) other tests may be required such as hormonal assessments, genetic tests and a medical examination of the testes including ultrasound. These will require review by your doctor and referral onto a fertility specialist. This can either be in the NHS or at a fertility clinic.
Morphology is what a sperm looks like down the microscope. A sperm has a head, a midpiece and a tail. We can look at different parts of the sperm and see if they look “normal”.
A bit like a tadpole. It should also be swimming in a characteristic way.
Yes, there are many: